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IBM's New App Operates as a Cognitive System to Offer Personalized Learning Opportunities

New App Operates as a Cognitive System to Offer Personalized Learning Opportunities

The new IBM MobileFirst for iOS education app is offering educators a new way to personalize learning in their classrooms through a simple download.

The app, which is made possible thanks to a partnership between tech giants Apple and IBM, is designed to "help teachers gain insights into each student's skills, preferences and interests to transform personalized learning experiences that are unique to all,” said Harriet Green, general manager, IBM Watson Internet of Things, Commerce & Education in a statement.

The Watson Element education app is unique in that it offers educators an opportunity to get to know students beyond their academic performance thanks to tools that let students share personal interests and milestones.

Educators can, for example, use the “spotlight” feature to recognize a student across the district for outstanding achievements. This spotlight feature allows teachers to coordinate to be aware of their students’ trajectory, helping facilitate a totally personalized learning environment.

"Using the Watson Element app, educators now have the relevant, real-time information they need in order to individualize learning and prepare students to be successful in an ever-changing world,” said Dr. Marilyn Denison, Coppell ISD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in a statement.

The app is also particularly useful when it comes to the optimal utilization of data-driven insights.

"With data-driven insights at their fingertips, teachers can spot trends across groups, allowing them to bring students together for small group instruction based on common skill levels or areas of interest,” IBM said.

According to IBM, Apple will be adding the Watson Element app to its portfolio of educational tools recommended for school-use to transform student learning experiences.

The Watson Element app is yet another effort by IBM to make a name for itself in the personalized education market.

In April 2016, the company released a white paper based on interviews with education providers, social media content and more to learn about how educators use digital education services to deliver personalized learning.

The paper defined several useful practices educators can adhere to when implementing new technology to navigate through avoidable challenges.

These leading practices include:

  • Appointing a formal digital learning leader or team
  • Encouraging and rewarding teacher enthusiast, champions/advocates and using them as mentors
  • ‘Reverse mentoring’ – recent graduate teachers advising an older generation of teachers on digital tools
  • Focus groups to continually understand student needs
  • Digital armbands (flash drives) to permit offline working
  • Interactive and continuous training for teachers

The paper found that the most successful personalized learning tools are ones that act as the teacher’s assistant.

"We see cognitive systems as being able to extend the capabilities of educators by providing deep domain insights and expert assistance through the provision of information in a timely, natural and usable way,” the paper said.

"These systems will play the role of an assistant, which is complementary to and not a substitute for the art and craft of teaching.”

It is clear that this research helped shape the Watson Element app, which is a cognitive system that aims to provide holistic learning paths.

Find out more about the Watson Element app here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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